7.27.2014

The Delight of God:

As any good researcher would do prior to writing a theological blog posting, I posed a question to my Facebook friends: "What do you think God think about you?  Does he have any thoughts or feelings regarding you?"

The answers varied from, "Forgiven" and "His child", to "God is needed elsewhere. I'm just fine", and "I doubt God cares."  The responses came publicly and privately from the range of those who consider them followers of Jesus Christ to those who consider themselves Atheists/Skeptics.  This particular posting is not intended to convince the Atheist/skeptic.  While I hope it does just that, it is intended to serve more as encouragement for my brothers and sisters in Christ. 

It breaks my heat that a number of Jesus followers have a view of God as a spiritual curmudgeon who perpetually shakes his head at our sins and failures.  To be sure, God desires His redeemed children to behave like redeemed children.  There is no doubt about that.  However, it seems apparent that many think they don't measure up and that we will always struggle to please God.

So here it is, brothers and sisters.  God's very word proclaims it: God is delighted in you!  There, I said it.  You don't have to continue agreeing with the devil and condemning yourself any more.  The Old Testament prophet, Zepheniah, (3:17) proclaims, "He (God) delights over you with singing."  That same passage refers to God's "gladness" and his "rejoicing" over those of us who are His people (aka, "in Christ").  Gladness is the "feeling of pleasure, joy, or delight; causing happiness"; and Rejoicing is the "showing of great pleasure, joy, or delight."  The former is a noun, while the latter is a verb.  Delight is what God feels about you, and rejoicing in song is what he does for you!

Is that difficult to believe: That the Creator of the vastness of space and the smallness of grains of sand thinks this way about you and me?  My mind is boggled by it, yet it gives me great encouragement.  The Psalmist (37:23) wrote, "The Lord directs the steps of the godly, and He delights in every detail of their lives."  You may be tempted to think, "Yeah, but I'm not godly, so how could He ever delight in me?  If you could see into my private affairs, you'd know God doesn't think of me as godly.

Well, the Psalmist answered that notion in the next verse: "Though they stumble, they will never fall.  The Lord holds them by the hand."  The word of God affirms that the godly stumble.  YET, God still holds them by hand...and He STILL delights in them...in US!  Notice what it DOESN'T say: that God delights in us only when we do right; only when we've read our Bible faithfully for 14 hours a day, or only when we've prayed for the other 10.  No, He loved and saved us EVEN WHILE WE WERE STILL SINNERS, so what do you think you could ever do to change his mind or opinion about you?

We may be tempted to think the Gospel merely gets us INTO God's good favor, and that afterwards He lowers the proverbial boom, waiting for a reason to reject us once again.  But that's not how it is!  He loves us because of one simple, yet profound, word: GRACE.  By God's grace, He has poured out His love, mercy, and favor upon us.  He draws us to Christ, and he sets those of us who trust in Christ as His delight.

You bring God great pleasure, joy, and gladness because when He looks at you He sees Jesus Christ...and Jesus is the beloved Son who brings the Father great joy (Matt 3:17, 17:5).  This is great news for the saint and the sinner alike!  For the saint, because you do not need to walk each day of your life in perpetual condemnation; for the sinner, because you, too, can be the object of the Creator's delight.  There is nothing you've done that's so bad that God will never accept you; and if you're a follower of Jesus, there's nothing you've done that's so bad that God will reject you.

So, go.  Live every day in the delight of God, and know every day that you are the object of God's great delight.  When things get bad, imagine the Father in Heaven singing over you!!!

6.24.2014

"New Spirit-Filled Life Study Bible (New International Version), Edited by Jack Hayford (review)

I received “The New Spirit Filled Life Study Bible, New International Version" from Thomas Nelson Publishers for review.  I previously reviewed the same Bible in the New King James and New Living Translation/Version, and have many of the same opinions about the NIV as I do about the NKJV and NLT.

CROSS-REFERENCES:
I formerly used a study bible that contained cross-references in the sub-headings of each chapter.  For instance, if the parable of the sower was named in Matthew 13, it also provided the “address” to see the passage at Mark 4, and conversely.  This study Bible does not have this feature.  There are still margin and footnote cross-references (in smaller print, of course), but not the quick cross-referencing that I was used to.

COLOR SCHEMES:
I am not a fan of the color scheme in the NIV Bible compared to the color scheme of the NLT Bible.  The NKJV employed a blue/gray hue, while the NLT employs a maroon/black hue.  The NIV, however, is comprised of its notes sections in two shades of pink for "Word Wealth" and "Truth in Action" sections, and gray in "Kingdom Dynamics" sections.  As a man, I honestly am not sure I'd want to be seen in a public place reading a pink-tinted book.  You may call it trivial, but it's just the way it is.  This kind of stuff matters to guys.  So, the ladies might appreciate the color schemes of this version.
The following headings contain similar opinions as were written for the NKJV and NLT:

WORD WEALTH:
Each book contains several Word Wealth insets.  These are small boxes that pertain to particular words in the text that the editors believed would be helpful.  What is great is that these boxes are not filled with an author’s personal opinions, or how a particular denomination believes.  Instead, words are lightly dissected in their Hebrew or Greek usage.  This feature does some of the legwork for those times when you wish you had an exhaustive concordance handy.

KINGDOM DYNAMICS:
Another similar inset box contained within the text is this Kingdom Dynamics feature.  This box contains information for how the text applies to the Kingdom of God, what the first hearers/believers were experiencing, etc.  It provides a more detailed commentary about an important theme in the passage.  This commentary is slightly different from those “bottom-of-the-page” commentaries where a particular author tells you what s/he believes about, let’s say, the “rapture” for example.

COMMENTARY:
So naturally, this brings me to the next point: commentaries.  Have you ever read a study Bible by so-and-so and you wished s/he would leave personal or debatable opinions out of it?  That’s been done in this Bible.  Since there are so many contributors to this Bible, it is highly unlikely they all believed the same things on those debatable issues.  And those opinions have been omitted from the commentaries.  So if you’re looking for someone to tell you what to believe at all turns, this isn’t the Bible for you.

VERSE DIVISIONS:
This version makes the reading more readable than the NKJV.  Where the NKJV chopped each verse into a new line, the NIV is written more in paragraph form.  For example, if you’re reading Acts 1:10-11 in the NKJV, it looks like this:

10 And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel,
11 who also said…

I don’t like it that way because it’s choppy.  Do you remember your high school or college literature class where you were required to read a poem aloud?  I know you didn’t do this, but as you listened to your classmates read the poem line by line, you and everyone else could tell when one line concluded and the next began.  It sounded choppy rather than “flowy”.  That’s what this broken-verse format does in this Bible, so I’ll just come out and say it: I hate this feature.  Although I’m relatively certain the editors’ rationale was to make each verse easier to find in rapid searches, I’m positively against chopping up paragraphs like this.  ‘Nuff said.

But the NIV reads more like how a person would expect literature to appear.

TRUTH-IN-ACTION:
This section completes each book.  Numerical references throughout the Biblical text may point the reader to one or more of these points.  The Truth section briefly explains the history behind the passage’s theme.  The Action section describes what the Holy Spirit intends for us to do with the given theme or information in the text.  It’s brilliant!  For what good is reading the Bible if we don’t also make life application?

RATING & RECOMMENDATION:
I give the NIV 3 1/2 stars.  I'm not much of a fan of the NIV translation itself, nor am I a fan of the pink tint, but all that said, this one is still a good study Bible...especially for those who like pink :-)  You'll have to decide whether you like NIV, NLT, or NKJV reading.  In any case, you won't be disappointed.


DISCLAIMER: I received this Bible free of charge from Thomas Nelson Publishers (Book Look Bloggers) in exchange for my unbiased review.  All opinions are mine.  I was not threatened or coerced in any way to provide a positive review.

6.08.2014

"I Will Never Forget", by Elaine C. Pereira (book review)


How does one prepare to care for loved ones suffering from dementia?  When loved ones seem to forget simple things, we may have the tendency to write them of as random quirks.  But when reflecting on memories, it's then that we clearly see what should have been red flags that somehow slipped past our attention.

In her debut book, Elaine Pereira captures the memories and struggles she now cherishes in her light-hearted account of her mother's battle with dementia. As I read the book, I reflected on my wife's grandmother who was also stricken with this disease, and although her life and Elaine's mother's were different, some of the details were unfortunately the same.

PURPOSE OF THE BOOK:  After I finished reading the book, I was able to speak with Elaine to ask her a few questions.  I was honestly inquisitive about why she wrote the book because it didn't seem to have a singular message.  Instead, it came across as a memoir.  Elaine explained that it was just that: a memoir.  She did not want her mother, who was academically and professionally a successful woman, to be remembered as the person she was in her later years.  Instead, she wanted readers to remember Betty for who she truly was.  She wants people to remember Betty, not the disease that stole her personality.

I would suppose Elaine would like her readers in similar situations to take this same notion away from the book.  When you struggle to care for your loved one suffering from this disease, recognize his/her characteristics and traits are not who those loved ones truly are.  Instead, behavior and memory flaws are the results of a horrible disease that steals the memories of good people. It is easy to get frustrated with the afflicted, but we must remember that it is not the individual person's fault, but the disease's.

FORMAT:  Writing a historical account is challenging, in that the writer must tell linear history in a way that is interesting.  That said, I truly enjoyed the way Elaine wrote this memoir.  She wrote it in a back-and-forth fashion, not sticking to a particular timeline.  

For instance, Elaine would reflect in flashback-fashion on a memory she had of, say, her mother teaching her how to bake, or a time when she got in trouble as a youngster.  Because she included funny stories of their younger lives, it was easy to like Betty and Elaine.  After telling a particular story, Elaine would then jump ahead to recent past years to tie the previous story to the point she attempted to make in the chapter.  While some readers may not like this back-and-forth style, I found it enjoyable because I didn't feel bogged down with matters of chronology.  Instead, I could simply enjoy the story for the purpose of the story.

TRAGEDY:  I could never imagine the pain and grief entailed in burying my own children -- no matter how old we may be.  Elaine included the heart-breaking stories of Betty stoically laying two of her children to rest, along with her husband in later years.  Through it all, Betty was a champion, and I never sensed Betty ever complained "woe is me".   Just when you think your life is difficult, read a book about the struggles others have faced.

EDITING:  I've read a number of self-published books over the years, and as far as editing is concerned, they are usually pretty weak in the editing department.  However, this book was absolutely flawless.  I complimented Elaine on this fact that she had no spelling, word-use, or grammatical errors (that I could see), and that I found it refreshing to read.  She said the self-publishing industry has given itself a bad reputation because given the right amount of money anyone can publish anything -- good or bad.  Instead, she hopes people will recognize there are quality authors who are self publishing for one reason or another, and that we simply need to sift through the other stuff.

CONCLUSION:  So, that's the purpose of this review.  If you find yourself in the situation of caring for a loved who is suffering from dementia, you are not alone.  Maybe this book will be a heads-up to you if you're in the early stages with the disease; or maybe it will be a comforter knowing others struggle with you.  I hope this book will capture the attention from professionals in the medical field, and I think it will capture the interests of families in a similar situation as Elaine.

RATING: While "I Will Never Forget" is not a page-turner, I found it enjoyable to read.  I give this one 4 stars.  I typically give 5 to those "I-can't-put-this-one-down" kind of book.  So, 4 is my opinion that this is a pretty high quality book.

PROCEEDS: A portion of all the proceeds from sales of this book go to support Alzheimer's research.  If you buy on June 21st, "the longest day", however, Elaine will donate double to this much-needed research.

DISCLAIMER: I received this book free of charge from the author.  I was not coerced to provide a positive review of it.  All opinions are mine.



5.05.2014

Speed Rewind -- Influential People and Memorable Places:

I had a great opportunity to spend 4 months training for work in Washington DC.  I made excellent use of my time visiting many influential people and memorable places.  Here is a speed-rewind of the hundreds of pictures I captured during my journeys.

I have been a "follower" of Dr. Mark Dever, Pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington DC for several years. During my time in DC, one of my must-do stops was CHBC.  I thoroughly enjoyed their worship, Mr. Brad Wheeler's sermon, and talking with Mark.  He saw that I was a visitor and actually approached me and sat beside me as we talked for several minutes.  Thank you, Mark and CHBC.

This is a monument to William Wallace (think "Braveheart").  During the early days of my short time in DC, I decided to tour Baltimore, the City of Monuments.  It was a great experience, and this picture represents all the many monuments I enjoyed seeing during my city "scavenger hunt", including Martin Luther, Generals Lee and Jackson, and General Pulaski, to name a few.

Visiting soldiers in Gettysburg, PA.  I appreciate what these re-enactors are doing to keep history alive.  It truly is a dedication of service to spend so many weekends away from their family in order to educate people like me.

The Flight 93 memorial in Stoystown, PA.  This was a memorable visit because of what it represented.  Although every passenger and crew member died that tragic 9/11 day, this spot marks the place where a group of courageous Sheepdogs fought and died to save their fellow countrymen from further tragedy.  Thank you to everyone on board.  We may never fully know what you prevented that day.

Darrin Patrick, Pastor at The Journey church in Missouri.  He is also the author of "The Dude's Guide to Manhood", one of my favorite (and highly recommended for men) reads of 2014.  He was the guest speaker at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD in May and he was gracious to let me say hi and get a picture with him.

Mr. Joshua Harris, Pastor of Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD and author of several books, including "Dug Down Deep" and "Humble Orthodoxy".  What a truly good man.  Although the church hosts about a thousand people, Joshua was very gracious to greet me every time he saw me, and took time to talk with me about my stay.  I truly wish I could get to know him better.  He is just one of those genuinely great people we all like to know.  Joshua is a leader in the truest sense of the word.

One of my favorite hidden places in Bow, NH.  This picture represents the many angles of beauty I witnessed in God's artistic creation there.  Ice, snow, sunsets, rocks, raging waters.  True beauty.  

This is the fallen trooper memorial wall inside the Pennsylvania State Police Training Academy -- a truly classy memorial to the fallen heroes of PA.

And what would we do without chocolate in our world?  Need I say more about Hershey, PA?


Inside the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, PA.  If you ever get a chance to visit, the tour is worth the $14 admission price.  ESP is where Al Capone spent about 1 year of his incarceration.

Given my career path, it seemed fitting to visit the US Supreme Court.  This picture represents the grand structures all around DC, signifying the great strength and wealth of our great country.  I pray that we will, as a country, never forget how much God has blessed us.  I pray that we will one day return to face Him.

How could I NOT get a picture with my namesake?

My beautiful wife with me in DC.  Having little ones, this is one of a few pictures we have alone together.  The blossoms in the background smelled so good as the breeze blew through them.

Ummmmm...Super Orioles Fan?  Here's what I admired about him: he didn't care what people thought about his looks or the chilly temps.  He loves his Baltimore Orioles, and he loved interacting with the fans, even though he didn't get to watch much of the game against the Red Sox.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail, this mammoth rock sits in its place.  I wonder how it got there, and how it didn't roll down the steep hillside.

From Jefferson Rock on the Appalachian Trail overlooking the Shenandoah River near Harper's Ferry, WV.  The view was grand and glorious and my camera couldn't possibly capture it all.

I found this raging water fall hidden from traffic view off the Potomac River near Harper's Ferry.  The violence of the water was loud, of biblical proportions, in fact.  If 2 people stood next to each other, they would have to yell to hear each other over the crashing water.  I put my feet in the cold water, and it was truly invigorating.


4.30.2014

"The Book of Saints: The Middle Era", Edited by Al Truesdale (book review)


"The Book of Saints: The Middle Era" is a collection of 154 brief writing from 23 fathers of Christianity, including names like Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Bernard of Clairvaux, and Thomas a Kempis.  This 216-page collection reads like a devotional whose brief passages are easy to understand and worthy of deeper reflection and excavation.

Each passage -- which requires only a fraction of a page -- is preceded by a short introduction into the life of the historical figure whose writing is the subject of the particular reflection.  Although each writing does not require much reading time, there is "space" for deeper reflection.  Each passage is followed by a prayer or homily (etc) from another historical Christian figure.  Finally, a short section entitled "Reflection" concludes the lesson, where a few applicable scripture passages are provided for deeper reflection or study.

This is not one of those books a person will likely read cover-to-cover in just a few sittings, but over the course of weeks or months.  I think it is well organized and would be a good tool for someone looking for another style of "daily devotional", or even as a gift for an avid historian.

RATING: As far as "devotionals" are concerned, this is a good one; as for it being a historical treatise, you will be relieved not to suffer though mountains of books before arriving at the golden nuggets somewhere in the middle.  I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

DISCLAIMER:  I received this book free of charge from Beacon Hill Books in exchange for my unbiased review of it.  All opinions are mine and were not forced upon me to provide a positive review.

4.23.2014

"Healing Love", by Dr. James Marcum (re-posted with permission)

The following article was re-posted with permission from Dr. James Marcum of Heartwise Ministries.

"I am writing this on a beautiful Easter Sunday. The sky is a perfect blue and the sunlight is giving energy and warmth to the world. My thoughts are focused on the healing power of love. The love that emanates from God. We may learn about this by having a relationship with the Creator. This is in our original design and I believe when we do not have this connection the brain and body are under stress and the subsequent adverse chemistry. The world is too often focused on what we can do when it comes to healing and not what God can do. I think about all the money being spent on new medications and genetic research. Are we getting better? Are we being distracted from real truth?

"Someone came into the office with a bag full of supplements, many of which I was unfamiliar. I explained that anything we put into our body, whether this be food, a medicine, a supplement, herb, or even the inputs and thoughts of the mind. It all has some effect on our body. We might not understand the physiology, but there are changes. Modern medicine focuses on individual chemical pathways, reductionism, but I want you to think about the complexity of the body and how everything interacts in ways we might not understand. But, in my experience, even though I do not understand all the physiology, God’s original recommendations have merit. Love is one of these recommendations.

"As I observe the sun today which allow the leaves to undergo photosynthesis giving oxygen for us to breathe and giving the energy to form sugars, I realize that God is always taking care of me. Is love a treatment for this world? Absolutely! Love is more than a feeling, more than hugs and kisses, more than a rose. It involves serving, being with each other, listening, caring, putting the needs of ahead of our own, seeking a relationship with our Creator. God is love and to know God is to love God. Love is definitely involved in healing.

"I remember hearing the story of a child being in the middle of a street and a car approaching. The child was full of fear and stress. A nearby onlooker had no fear but jumped into the street to remove the child from danger. Love casts out fear. Fear, phobias of all sort, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, all produce damaging chemicals. It is estimated that 1:6 suffers from anxiety. Having love in our life is part of the treatment. Love decreases adrenaline, cortisol, inflammation, raises our ability to reason and is a healing belief.


"On Easter our desire is to have love in our life and learn how to have a healing relationship with our Creator and each other. The most important healing event the world has ever known is being celebrated today. This ultimate act of love gives us the healing prescription. I see many who focus on modern medicine and this is needed at times. Many point out the importance of a whole food plant based diet. This is important as well. Others help out with improving the mental health and eliminating stress and fear. This is as important as the food we eat. We must, however, start with the relationship with our Lord which will lead to us understanding love a little bit more each day. This is where the healing starts. Everything will fall into place after this. Love is a treatment for the world. Something to be re-emphasized this Easter."

"Backspin", by Pete Strobl (book review)


"Backspin" is the serious-humorous autobiography of a former professional basketball player in the European leagues, Pete Strobl. Pete played college ball at Niagara University, and went on to play nine seasons professionally in European leagues.  He founded (and now coaches youngsters at) The Scoring Factory, a basketball skills camp in Pittsburgh, PA.

The book's title comes from Pete's telling of his many experiences and what those same experiences taught him.  At strategic points in the book, Pete pauses his story-telling to tell "the story behind the story", which he aptly titles, "backspin".  These shorter "backspins" are often comprised of little lessons he experienced, but may not have recognized until later.  Pete is a marvelous story teller, and his wit made me laugh and think often as I read through it.

Thoughtful people -- I think -- don't simply want to tell interesting stories. Instead, they want those stories to have meaning and inspiration for others.  Because this book made me think about several priceless lessons, I'd like to tell you about just three reflections I took away from this book.  (I'll let you read Pete's interesting stories for yourself in his own words.)

REFLECTION #1: As much as Pete Strobl longed to make it to the "bigs" (aka "NBA") -- just as many athletes hope -- he never quite made it there.  Yet, I got the feeling while reading the book that maybe Pete's purpose in life wasn't to be a big name on NBA TV.  He has a heart for teaching, and eventually that door opened for him.  While he enjoyed playing ball, he also wanted to coach one day.  He explained in the chapter entitled, "Keeping an Open Mind", that he didn't expect to become a coach as soon as he did. Often, we can be disappointed when we do not attain our life goals, but it's only when we approach minor setbacks with an open mind that we find success and joy.

I'm reminded of the old phrase, "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry."  As a Christian, I attempt to look at life and its setbacks and successes in view of God's design.  We may make plans, but God orchestrates the music.  We may think we will enjoy a particular pursuit, but it many times God uses those setbacks and disappointments to lead us to a later realization of satisfaction and success.  Pete explained that while he didn't expect to become a coach so soon, he also didn't expect to enjoy it so much.

Lesson #1 - Don't beat yourself up if you don't realize a dream. Maybe something better is waiting for you.

REFLECTION #2: Another interesting thought came with Pete's telling of our perception of "role players". On page 197, Pete writes, "There are role players or accompanists in both music and basketball...Role players sometimes go unnoticed, but are often the difference between a hit record or not."  He tells the story of a bassist who just does his job; he's nobody special, and he's definitely not the front-man. Yet, he is so vital to the music that for some reason a lot of the great hits seem to have his name in the credits. Yet, he may not receive accolades for his great success in supporting other musicians.

The same is true with team sports, Strobl says, and I'd even suggest is true with life in general.  Most of us long to see our name in lights, or to speak in front of thousands, or to have our name recognized as a household name.  But it is often the case that those who are making some of the greatest impact in others lives are those whose names barely peak out from within the shadows.  I think about my own life and all the things I hope to accomplish. More importantly, however, is what I'm doing with what abilities I have where I am now.  Am I striving for fame? Or do I long to make an impact in peoples' lives?  I think this is the point Pete is attempting to make.  If not, that's what I took away from it.

Lesson #2 - What do you really want in life?  Fading fame, or the ability to impact people?

REFLECTION #3: Finally, Pete told a story about a time when he was a youngster going to the arena to watch a young basketball star named Michael Jordan.  "Now that I was coaching younger kids, I thought more than ever about the indelible impression adults can make on kids.  A lot of long hours and hard work on Michael Jordan's part went into making that a memorable night for an arena full of fans.  And with all of that attention comes a responsibility...I vowed to take coaching just as seriously as I did playing" (pp. 267-268).

What are we teaching our children?  What are we teaching others' children?  How we treat these young people speaks volumes into their lives about what they perceive they mean to us.  Influential people have the power to turn a troubled youth into a successful leader, or to break a once-great kid down to a lonesome soul.  I am saddened when I consider all the times I've failed my own children in this manner.

Pete continues a similar thought in the book's conclusion: "They also say that the best way to really master something you love is to teach it to someone else" (p.327).  I have the feeling that Pete will not only be teaching basketball skills into youngsters' lives, but will be speaking wisdom, courage, and discipline into their lives as well.

Lesson #3 - You are always teaching something to others.  Will you be mindful about what it is you're teaching them?

CONCLUSION: There were a lot of stories in this book, and while I got confused a couple times in the midst of Pete's ever-changing "scenery" as he bounced around the European league, I still found it thought-provoking and enjoyable at the same time.  I thought the telling of the many stories lent value to the lessons he would project through them.  I highly recommend this book for basketball fans and athletes alike.  The lessons are well worth the read.

Coach Pete Strobl can be reached though his website, CoachStrobl.com.

RATING: I give "Backspin" 4 out of 5 stars.  It was an enjoyable book, but not one that I thought, "Man, I just can't set this one down."  There were also a few spelling mistakes that I was surprised the editor didn't catch, but they in no way distracted me away from the stories themselves.

DISCLAIMER: I received this book free of charge from the author in exchange for an unbiased review.  I was not obligated to provide a positive review of it; all opinions expressed are mine.

4.15.2014

"Blood Moons Rising: Bible Prophecy, Israel, and the Four Blood Moons", by Mark Hitchcock (book review)


INTRODUCTION: For some reason, people continue trying to predict the return of Jesus, even though Jesus himself said no one but the Father in Heaven knows that particular date and time.  Unfortunately, John Hagee, the front-runner of the "four blood moons prophecy", appears to be doing just that.  While he doesn't outright set a date for the return of Christ, he dances on the same floor with his "Four Blood Moons" prophecy interpretation by approximating a date via four lunar eclipses in a two-year span.  Mark Hitchcock makes it his purpose in this book to refute Hagee's interpretation.

BACKGROUND:  NASA reports that there will be four lunar eclipses (called a "lunar tetrad") in the years 2014 and 2015: (1) 4/15/14, (2) 10/8/14, (3) 4/4/15, and (4) 9/28/15.  Hagee somehow turns these astronomical events into a suggestion that the recurrence of four lunar eclipses tied to major Jewish feasts within a two-year span somehow have significance in God's eschatological plan.  He quotes biblical language that says, "...in the last days, the moon will be turned to blood..."  He suggests this language refers to lunar eclipses, where the moon typically displays a pinkish-red color.

Hagee apparently didn't stop there, but suggests that historically any time a "blood moon" occurred during a Jewish feast time, something significant happened to Israel's people and/or land.  Hagee notes the coming four lunar eclipses will occur during two Passover celebrations and two Sukkot celebrations in two consecutive years. Therefore, he suggests something "big" just might be on the horizon. Just might be?  Isn't there always something big just on the horizon?  But I digress.

THE REFUTATION: In the early pages of this book, I mistakenly thought Hitchcock supported the blood moons prophecy interpretation.  After reading a few chapters, I was confused, so I had to re-read his Introduction to ascertain which position he was taking in the book. I found that the book was, indeed, intended to refute Hagee's position.

Much of the first few chapters dealt with the typical pre-tribulation rapture view of the end times prophecy. This fact comes as no surprise, really, as it was endorsed by the "Left Behind" series author, Tim Lahaye. Pre-tribbers believe Jesus will rapture his Church away from the world just prior to a seven year tribulation. During that time of severe trouble, the rest of humanity will suffer intense suffering and death.  At the conclusion of those seven years, Jesus will return to establish his reign on earth for 1,000 years.

While I see many problems with the pre-tribulation rapture view (since the Bible doesn't even appear to teach a secret rapture), that's not the purpose of this book review.  Instead, I want only to deal with Hitchcock's handling of the four blood moons prophecy.

From the time I re-read the introduction forward, I was able to understand Hitchcock's approach. However, it wasn't until approximately the last half of the book that Hitchcock outright confronted the flaws of Hagee's prophetic interpretation.  So I say this with all honesty -- he did it well.  I say so not simply because I agreed with Hitchcock's position, but because what he said made logical and biblical sense.  As I read about Hagee's prophetic interpretation, I asked myself many of the questions that Hitchcock would also address in the book.

For instance, Hagee said historically the blood moons that fell on Jewish feasts had ties to significant events for the Israeli land and/or people.  However, the events Hagee hoped to connect could be found to be separated from the lunar eclipses by upwards of six months to a year!  It seems as though Hagee doesn't think people will actually perform a simple Internet search to check his "facts".  Instead, I wonder if he thinks people will simply swallow his ideas whole in blind belief.

CONCLUSION: I don't make it a habit or interest to listen to the newest en-times prophecy interpretations or doomsday predictions.  So, quite honestly, I didn't even know this prophetic interpretation existed before I read the book.  I had only heard the rumblings of interest in lunar eclipses.  I certainly don't live with my head in the sand -- but then again, maybe I have been.  Nevertheless, this book deals nicely with the flaws in Hagee's prophetic interpretation of the four blood moons.  If prophecy stuff is your cup of tea, and you like reading about debatable issues, then this book may be of interest to you.

RATING:  I give "Blood Moons Rising" 3 1/2 stars.  I didn't really find it interesting.  But then again, I'm not that interested in the prophecy predictions of the modern day.  The book was well written, and would be a good tool for someone looking for apologetic tools to fill their tool belt.

DISCLAIMER:  I received this book free of charge from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my unbiased review.  All opinions were mine, and I was not threatened or coerced to provide a positive opinion of the book.